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Dual-purpose laser range finder and lidar sensor


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Integrated Sensing and Cyber;Trusted AI and Autonomy


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: This topic seeks to develop a dual-purpose sensor which can operate as a laser range finder (LRF) at long ranges (defined as range detection of a standard 2.3-m x 2.3-m NATO target; multi-pulse processing is allowed) and secondarily as a lidar system which can generate small-scale, 3D point clouds at ranges within approximately 10 kilometers.  The sensor should be able to seamlessly switch between either mode while being suitable for operation from an airborne platform.


DESCRIPTION: Digital range finding technology offers many advantageous capabilities to airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions.  Many object tracking applications require precise knowledge of the object location, which can be found in real-time using a precision laser range finder in conjunction with some other cueing sensor [1]. The inclusion of a laser system on a sensor platform also invites the opportunity to perform target identification missions using the laser in conjunction with an optically resolved imaging system to create accurate 3D point clouds of targets [2]. Such a dual-purpose sensor will likely require real-time reconfigurable camera and laser settings to switch between the two missions.  The goal of this effort is to demonstrate a product with a compact and lightweight design and with standard interfaces that achieves the basic specifications outlined here.  The sensor should operate at an eye-safe wavelength of 1.55 µm or longer.  The 3D lidar mode should offer a pixel format and/or scanning solution to provide approximately a 256x256 or larger image providing both angular and range resolution.  The pixels can be digitally combined into larger macro-pixels and the laser pulse repetition frequency and pulse duration can all be reconfigurable to facilitate the laser range finding mode.  In the LRF mode, the range resolution should be less than 50-m with an accuracy of ±5 m out to maximum ranges.  The sensitivity and range can be increased through longer dwell times and multi-pulse processing.  The solution should fit within size, weight and power constraints of 1 cu ft, 40lbs, 100W, not including the beam steering mechanism. For both modes, some small angle scanning (±0.5 degrees) to fine tune the pointing towards targets in field of view should be developed to be used conjunction with a larger, coarse steering mechanism such as a gimbal or turning mirror.  The end-product for this effort need not include the coarse beam steering mechanism.


PHASE I: In this initial phase, device concepts will be developed, evaluated, and computer modelled.  Design challenges and trade-offs will be tabulated and areas in need of additional R&D will be identified.  Critical factors for the LRF include the maximum operating range, the range accuracy, and overall volume.  For the secondary objective of the lidar, critical factors include the resolution and field of view, and reconfigurability between the two modes.


PHASE II: Prototype devices will be constructed and tested for relevant specifications. Tests will be performed against relevant metrics. A final packaged system will be produced that meets the specifications and is suitable for Technology Readiness Level 4. Preliminary designs will be made for a Phase III device.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: A flight ready version of the design will be built from a compact and lightweight design and with standard interfaces. Manufacturing process will be evaluated and refined to improve yield while reducing cost.



  2. P. McManamon, LiDAR Technologies and Systems, SPIE Press, Bellingham, WA (2019)


KEYWORDS: lidar; laser range finder; ISR; point clouds

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